Page 39: of Maritime Reporter Magazine (January 2014)
Ship Repair & Conversion Edition
www.marinelink.com 39 months to build. The average dropped to 42 days per ship by mid war and some yards pulled it off in 16 days. As a pub- licity stunt, the SS Robert E. Peary, was built in world record time of 4 days, 15 hours, 26 minutes at the Kai- ser shipyard in Richmond, California (plus another three days to be fi tted out.)
By 1943, three Liberty Ships were being completed each day • Merchant Marine: The civil- ian mariner workforce rose from about 55,000 on December 7, 1941 to 215,000 in March 1945, and rose to over 250,000 by the war’s end.. A pre-war merchant fl eet of 1,340 cargo ships and tankers ex- panded to at least 4,221 U.S. merchant ships by war’s end. The U.S. Merchant fl eet went from 14% of the world’s ton- nage at the start of the war, growing to 60% after the war. • Number lost: 243. Overall Mer- chant Marine casualty rate was the high- est, estimated at 1 in 26, during the war.
The Merchant Marine served in World
War II as a Military Auxiliary. Of the nearly quarter million volunteer mer- chant mariners who served during World
War II, over 9,000 died. • Crew: A typical roster included 38-45 or so merchant mariners and anywhere form 13-just under 30 Na- val personnel. Each ship had an attach- ment from the U.S. Navy Armed Guard, tasked with defending U.S. and Allied merchant ships from attack. They served as gunners, signal men and radio opera- tors. • Postwar Dispersal: Under the Mer- chant Ship Sales Act of 1946, most sold off cheaply to foreign shipping compa- nies, including Onassis and the Japa- nese. Some were deployed in Vietnam, others were scrapped, and others were nmothballed. • Number remaining today: Two fully operational Liberty ships remain afl oat today: The SS Jeremiah O’Brien is docked in San Francisco, and SS John
W. Brown is berthed in Baltimore.
Sources: American Merchant Marine at
War (www.usmm.org); Project Liberty
Ship (http://www.liberty-ship.com), The
National Liberty Ship Memorial (http:// www.ssjeremiahobrien.org/) , www. merchantnavyoffi cers.com, http://www. sunderlandmaritimeheritage.org.uk,
National Liberty Ship Foundation, WW- 2Ships.com, National Park Service and
Liberty Ships and Associated Designs By
Sam Peters, “The Liberty Ships” by L.A.
Sawyer and W.H. Mitchell, The National
Patricia Keefe is a veteran business journalist and editor who has covered high-tech industries and maritime top- ics. She discovered while researching this story that her father came within a hair’s breadth of being assigned to a Lib- erty ship. After fi nishing Navy boot camp, the 16-year-old was sent to armed guard camp in Little Creek, Va., coincidently at the same time the father of a future son- in-law was also sent there. (That man went on to lead naval gunnery crews on several Liberty ships, including part of the fi rst convey to make it across the
Mediterranean without being attacked).
Her father was sent onto the armed guard camp in Brooklyn, N.Y., which was looking to staff Liberties. However, a na- val detachment came through seeking personnel to crew the shiny new U.S.S
Hancock aircraft carrier, and scooped him up, thereby making him one of that ship’s original plank owners.
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